With spring calving season just around the corner, now is the time to evaluate your beef cows and heifers to help make the calving season go smoother and set your herd up for success in the next breeding season.
Dr. Jody Wade, Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., says cow-calf producers need to focus on three key areas to help the calving season go smoothly:
- Body condition of heifers and cows
- Vaccinations to boost colostral antibodies
- First aid kit fully stocked and a clean calving area
It is important for cows to maintain a body condition score (BCS) between 4.5 and 5.5 during the final trimester. A higher body condition score allows for improved calving ease, along with higher quality colostrum. First-calf heifers should have a BCS of 5.5 to 6 before calving. However, producers should avoid cows or heifers with too much body condition (BCS 8 or 9) since that can lead to calving difficulty.
“Heifers are still trying to grow, while also providing milk and preparing to rebreed. After calving, they won’t add body condition so it is key that they are in really good condition before calving,” says Dr. Wade.
Several state cooperative extension services and cattle breed associations have tools available to help producers evaluate body condition.
Entering the third trimester, producers should consider vaccinating with a killed-virus vaccine, like Triangle® 5 or Triangle® 10, to boost immunity. Dr. Wade recommends that producers focus on the viral diseases like BVD Types 1 and 2, BRSV, PI3, and IBR. He adds that producers could also consider a clostridial vaccination at this time, if needed.
Dr. Wade explains that the immune response developed from the vaccination forms antibodies that pass from cow to calf through the colostrum. He encourages producers to work with their local veterinarian to develop a health program that fits the producer’s management style and protects the cow herd from regional disease challenges.
Dr. Wade says that vaccination cannot overcome poor nutrition. “Cows and heifers have to be in the right condition to respond to vaccinations,” he says. “Vaccines can’t make up for lack of feed or water.”
Don’t wait until you have problems to develop a plan. Dr. Wade recommends having the following items ready before calving season.
- Clean calving area
- Functioning calf jack
- Obstetric chains
- Plastic or latex gloves
- Good functioning lights for nighttime calving problems
- Easy access to local veterinarian’s phone number (including a back-up option)